The French president has said he has no reason to regret refusing to impose a third national lockdown earlier this year, even as the surge in coronavirus infections is straining his country’s hospitals and more than 1,000 people with the virus die every week.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government has stressed the importance of keeping children in school and businesses afloat as the pandemic enters a second year. The families of the French victims of COVID-19, however, claim that Macron has turned a blind eye to their suffering.
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“We were right not to put in place a lockout in France at the end of January because we did not have the explosion of cases that each model provided for,” Macron said Thursday evening after a summit of the European Union. “There will be no mea culpa on my part. I have no remorse and I will not admit my failure.”
For months, France defended a “third way” between confinement and freedom, including a national curfew and the closure of restaurants, museums, cinemas, gymnasiums, many shopping centers and a few other businesses. The measures have maintained the infection rate in France for some time, but it has risen again markedly this month.
France has recorded the fourth highest number of confirmed virus cases and one of the highest pandemic death rates with 93,378 deaths. Intensive care units are again at full capacity or beyond capacity in Paris and several other regions due to an influx of critically ill COVID-19 patients.
Many medical professionals have urged the French government for weeks to impose stricter restrictions in response to the more contagious variant of the virus first identified in Britain, which is now the dominant form of the virus in France.
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“A virus-free situation does not exist, and this is true for all countries in Europe. We are not an island, and even the islands which had protected themselves have sometimes seen the virus return,” Macron said. . “But we considered that with the curfew and the measures we had, we could cope.”
Relatives of people with deceased COVID-19 have taken to social media to express their anger over Macron’s comments.
“I started listening to it, and it started to get on my nerves and I had to change the channel,” says Lionel Petitpas, whose wife, Joëlle, died last year.
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“This is insane. Macron, the Prime Minister, they still think they are making the right decision. As a citizen, I say no, because we are in exactly the same situation as a year ago Petitpas, who started an association to allow families to mourn the victims of the virus together, told The Associated Press.
He recognized the challenges facing those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the pandemic. But he asked, “What’s the point of an economy if there is no one left healthy enough to run it?”
While the government is determined to avoid another nationwide lockdown, Macron said tougher measures could be announced in the coming days. Last week, the government closed non-essential stores and imposed travel restrictions on residents of Paris and several other areas, but some doctors fear that is not enough to slow the new outbreak.
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“We have been at 100% occupancy rate for almost a month. We have pushed our capacities to the maximum,” said Dr Mohamed El Hadi Djerad from the Pierre Beregovoy hospital in Nevers in Burgundy to the television channel local France-3. “We are in a crisis situation.”
The infection rate in Burgundy has doubled in two weeks.
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